Will Juniper’s White Box Gamble Pay Off?

Martin Courtney

It is obvious from the noises being made by its senior executives that Juniper wants to be known as a disruptor – a shining example of a forward looking company ready and willing to embrace the realities of an SDN/NFV market that values virtualised software more than networking hardware.

That refreshing attitude to change is apparent in the launch of the OCX1100, a ‘white box’ 10GbE network switch with little or no proprietary hardware or software features which marks a significant detour from Juniper’s previous product strategy.

Announced in December 2014 and now becoming widely available to interested buyers, the OCX1100 is aimed squarely at cloud service providers looking to host multiple IaaS/PaaS/SaaS and other ‘as a service’ options within massive scale data centres. The emphasis is on low cost hardware able to run different open source operating systems (including an optimised version of Juniper’s own JunOS) which are disaggregated from the underlying hardware itself (ie no proprietary features), based on a design from the Open Compute Project (OCP) first initiated by Facebook.

It’s not clear how much individual CSPs will have to pay for the OCX1100 (the price comes down the more units you buy) but the strategy looks familiar. With SDN/NFV expertise still thin on the ground in-house the considerable burden of installation, configuration, support and maintenance for SDN/NFV enabled switches and architecture will fall on Juniper – much like traditional open source software where the code comes free, but the vendors responsible for the distribution make their money from selling support and maintenance services.

It’s a bold move considering that the OCX1100 could cannibalise Juniper’s revenue from its other product lines, though it does tap into the company’s existing hardware strengths. A recent interview saw chief executive Rami Rahim insist that white boxes are an opportunity rather than a threat to Juniper’s existing business – how well the product sells over the next twelve months will give us a better idea of whether the gamble paid off.

Additional Resources: 

OCX1100 Open Networking Switch

Product Media Viewer (Juniper’s Site)

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